At the opening of Brand Spanking New (Week 2), Ned Manning (one of the writers for Week 1 of Spankers and 7 On-er) mentioned a group in Melbourne he thought I should check out once Spankers was put to rest…and that group is MKA Richmond. www.wix.com/mkamkamka/mkarichmond

A week earlier Ari Lander had told me that he couldn’t come to week 2 of Spankers as he was heading to Melbourne for MKA Richmond and he quizzed me on what I knew about it – and did I know Tobias Manderson-Galvin. “Sort of, i replied – “We are facebook friends… I’ve read his work and have chatted over email – but not really, not in the “invite him-over-for-dinner” kind of know”).

And then a couple of hours ago I received an email from Van Badham (as per below) alerting me to what was happening in Melbourne.

MKA RICHMOND : Melbourne’s New Writing Theatre SHUT DOWN BY LOCAL COUNCIL!!!!

After only two days of operation Melbourne’s newly opened 44-seat, new writing theatre, MKA Richmond, has been shut down by the local council and received heavy fines after a small number of locals voiced aggression at such petty issues as ‘increased foot traffic’ on their ‘quite residential street’. The street is also home to a commercial gallery, hairdresser, design studio, psychiatric suite, architecture firm, music distribution company, a legal brothel AND is approx 500 metres away from the 100,000 seat Melbourne Cricket Ground. The moment the complaints were received the City of Yarra council began hitting the theatre with fines for previously waived issues such as ‘an entry door that opens inwards’ and despite being one hundred metres from one of the city’s largest rail stations the council again reverted to demanding the theatre materialise equal carparking for the full 44 seats of the theatre. This is beuracracy gone too far and from the same council who this same week has been raided for allegedly accepting bribes from illegal brothels running in residential houses in the same area.

If you would like to write to complain…If you would like to demand MKA Richmond be allowed to operate in one of UNESCO’s two Literary Cities of the world… If you want to help… Please write anything as small as a paragraph. Or if it’s easier, write one amongst a group and then add your names. We would love your help. Please send your email of support to… bringbackthetheatre@mkarichmond.com.au

Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Artistic Director | MKA RICHMOND
Lot 2/ 24 Tanner St, Richmond VIC, Australia 3121
+61 3 94215476 | +61 412 834 129

For many Sydney-based artists Melbourne is land of ever-green grass… (I wonder if Sydney is regarded in the same way by artists in Melbourne? Hmmm… let me know…) and MKA Richmond has certainly created a stir with emerging and established writers alike… the concept, the line up, the website – all of it- impressive… clearly the attention and talk about MKA Richmond is testament to the energy of Glyn and Tobias… and their vision to give writers a home – a physical space for discussion and for airing of work.

Are councils really that petty – especially give the context of the venue or is there more to this “shutting down” besides bizarre claims of footfall and insufficient parking? After all 44 seats is less than many house parties I have attended – surely there is something else to this? I just can’t believe that a council – especially a council in the “milk and honey” land of Melbourne would be petty and so hostile toward cultural development?

I find it interesting to think about the changes that have been made in 30 years of theatre in Australia. let’s think about La Mama – would David Williamson exist and would many of our plays have been written if La Mama was at the mercy of stringent building codes and the need to abide by all rules, recommendations of housing/commercial standards etc? Interesting to think how much our generation of theatre practitioners and artists have to fight that little bit more to have space to create and share ideas because we have inherited a fearful and conservative beaurocratic structure. (ooh I am sounding a little bit punk aren’t I?)

That being said, I reckon we are up for it. If there is a way for us to stand up for new initiatives to support writers and artists, I reckon the network is brave, bold and articulate enough to do it. I reckon the sydney Melbourne divide doesn’t need to exist when it comes to supporting writers in our country – this is a national concern – and not confined to the minute of council regulations.

Theatre people are people who love big ideas, who invest their thoughts and talent and time discussing and examining universal truths and struggles – passion, power, money, selfishness, greed – and I reckon we are the group that can stand up to this. As I mentioned, playwrights talk – as demonstrated earlier in the year with the NSW literary Awards – DON’T PISS OFF THE PLAYWRIGHTS! They are irrepressible, empowered and intelligent enough to take on any battle they deem fit.

Write an email, write a letter… request that if Richmond council want to shut down MKA Richamond, that they should at least fund a fully compliant writers theatre which Tobias and Glyn are employed on council salaries to run… if to do nothing else but save Melbourne’s reputation amongst the arts community, and maintain Sydney’s fantasy that Melbourne’s grass is greener!